Tehran, Moscow Sign Deal for Visa-Free Travel

Tehran, Moscow Sign Deal for Visa-Free TravelTehran, Moscow Sign Deal for Visa-Free Travel

Iran and Russia have mutually waived visa requirements for organized tours, taking another step toward visa-free travel between the two nations.

Based on an agreement signed by the heads of consular departments of each country’s foreign ministry last week, tour groups of five to 50 people heading to Russia from Iran or vice versa will be granted visa-free stay of up to 15 days, Sputnik News quoted Yvgeny Ivanov, the head of Russian Foreign Ministry’s Consular Department, as saying.

The agreement, which was signed during the fifth session of the commission on consular cooperation between Russia and Iran in Tehran, will go into effect in 2017.

According to Maya Lomidze, executive director of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, only a limited number of travel agencies will be able to offer such tours and all such companies will have to be verified by both sides.

“I hope that this process will be as democratic as possible, because any simplification of the visa regime and further liberalization will help increase the tourist flow between the two countries,” she said.

According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, around 80,000 visas were issued for Iranians in the first 10 months of 2016 compared to 40,000 issued throughout 2015.  “That is in no small part due to the launch of direct flights from Tehran to St. Petersburg, Moscow and Sochi in the past year,” Lomidze said.

It is unclear how many Russians have visited Iran so far this year, which is hardly surprising given Iran’s poor track record in collecting and reporting tourism data.

Efforts to ease travel between the two countries follow a three-phase plan devised a year ago. The first phase, which calls for mutual relaxation of visa procedures for people active in trade, science and tourism sectors, went into effect in February. Waiving visa requirements for tours organized by travel agencies is the second phase of the scheme.The  implementation of total visa-free travel is the third and final phase of the plan, for which formal talks will be held next year.


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